Email has always been a target for cyberattacks, with the first happening in 1988. Cybercriminals have accelerated the pace in which they use email to gain access to critical data. So, what can companies do to protect themselves and increase email security? Mike Puglia, Chief Strategy Officer & GM, Security Products, Kaseya, explains how companies can put email protection in place.
Since it made its entrance in 1971, email has, and continues to be, an indispensable tool for business operations. However, even in its earliest days, bad actors targeted email; with the first cyberattack occurring in 1988. Given businesses’ ever-increasing reliance on email, cybercriminals have accelerated the pace in which they use this medium to gain access to critical systems, compromise data and threaten organisational infrastructures. Recently, the Anti-Phishing Work Group reported there have been one million phishing attacks in the first half of 2022 – a clear call-to-action that underlines the pressing need to increase email security.
Native email security is no longer enough
Although native or built-in email security tools such as Microsoft Defender and Google Workspace Security are generally included with email platforms, these applications have limitations. While the tools provide basic defence, they lack robust support, have inadequate security management features, fail to consider businesses’ individual needs and importantly, may not catch all threats.
For an additional layer of protection against malicious threats, there are two types of email security solutions: cloud-based and on-premises. Cloud-based email security solutions keep pace with the flexible and scalable nature of the cloud, while on-premises solutions restrict security measures and resources to physical office locations. With cloud-based email security, dependence on internal security capabilities or a physical server is eliminated, and it doesn’t require regular maintenance, upgrades or costly hardware replacements. Given the advantages of cloud-based email security, nearly half of all organisations have already migrated to this approach.
How Artificial Intelligence improves email security
Essentially, there are two types of email security tools – Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) and API-based email security. SEGs place a virtual checkpoint between malicious incoming messages and a company’s email server. They are customisable to suit organisational structures and processes; however, they are dependent upon updated threat intelligence. Further, screening processes within SEGs may delay the receipt of incoming emails, and the gateway often requires maintenance and configuration.
Conversely, API-based email security tools are designed to detect and diminish threats without delaying email traffic. They generally provide IT departments with more control and insight into the protection of their cloud-based infrastructure, contain more automation capabilities than SEGs, require less maintenance and allow seamless integration with cloud applications to maximise their effectiveness.
To further augment the protection provided by these security tools, Artificial Intelligence (AI), where the AI engine operates behind the scenes, can be added. This is a field that is seeing an influx of new solutions that include stronger defence against cyberattacks, increased cyber-resilience and lower payroll costs. With the ability to act autonomously and handle routine tasks, AI can spot cybersecurity threats that humans can’t, respond to breaches faster and reduce costs associated with manual security processes. Since AI doesn’t rely on threat reports to detect vulnerabilities, AI-enabled tools can quickly locate suspicions, leading to the early detection and potential prevention of attacks.
Not only is automated security nearly 40% more effective at stopping malicious messages than a SEG or conventional security, AI-driven solutions are more likely to recognise a zero-day threat than conventional security tools because of their constant collection and analysis of fresh threat intelligence. This is important when you consider that Google estimates that 68% of phishing attacks can be classified as zero-day attacks.
What to look for in a solution
When looking for an AI email security solution, ask yourself:
- Does the solution place prominent warning banners on unexpected messages that require extra attention?
- Does the solution provide a way to quickly stop an attack?
Once you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these questions, there are other factors to consider:
· Does the solution have a built-in self-learning algorithm? It should gather threat data and automatically learn how to spot undetected threats and constantly improve its accuracy based on performance analysis to make tailored protection adjustments based on your company’s specific communication patterns.
· Does the tool feature thorough message system analysis to scrutinise content, spot phishing attempts, and potential cyberthreats? A tool that analyses the entire message to identify attacks means you can forget about blacklists and safe sender lists.
· What is the false positive rate? Effective solutions produce minimal false positive rates and eliminate the need for repeated threat database updates.
· Does the solution protect users from human error by reliably spotting and stopping phishing messages before they reach a user’s inbox? This added layer of protection ensures that malicious emails are not inadvertently opened.
Advanced and effective solutions that combine secure gateways, API-based security, and AI functionality into one powerful layer of defence, provide reliable protection against some of today’s nastiest threats, including spear phishing, business email compromise and ransomware. They give organisations the ability to tailor their email protection to their unique business needs – drastically improving email security without adding an administrative burden.